A blooming good way to get active

Taking on small amounts of physical activity through gardening can help to manage and reduce the side effects of cancer. We know cancer treatment can affect your health in many ways – from causing anxiety to reducing mobility. But the strength and enjoyment you could get from gardening can help you start to feel more in control.

Whether you have a big back garden, your own allotment or a few pot plants, we’ve got some tips to help you start gardening. Plus, to show you how your green-fingered efforts could help you flourish, we’ve listed some of the health benefits below.

Dig in

Being active can help manage and reduce the side effects of cancer treatment and gardening is a great way to do it. Here are some tips to get you started:

Take your pick:

Choose plants that are easy to grow and suit the conditions of your garden – type of soil, shade or sunny etc. You might find it easier to pick plants that grow slowly. Ask in your gardening centre or shop for advice.

Protect yourself:

Wearing gloves protects your hands from cuts or grazes. This is especially important if you have any swelling (lymphoedema) in your hands or arms.

Weeding is important:

Taking time to weed, even once or twice a week, makes a huge difference. Remember to remove the roots of the weeds so they can’t regrow.

Organisation is key:

Whether you’re planting in the garden, greenhouse, allotment or indoors, being organised is always helpful, keep a gardening calendar or notepad, it will help track when your plants flower or veg and when you should be watering them.


Helping you grow

Getting active through gardening could help you manage and reduce the side effects of cancer treatment in the following ways:

  • help look after your heart
  • reduce depression and anxiety
  • help look after your bones and joints
  • strengthen your muscles
  • reduce tiredness (fatigue)
  • help you maintain a healthy weight.

Find out more about the many ways you can benefit from physical activity.


Explore gardens

You can also get out to an open garden through our partner the National Garden Scheme as an easy way to get active.

Every year, the National Garden Scheme invites people to open up their gardens to raise money to support Macmillan and other charities. From pristine patios to grand estates, all gardens are packed with ideas and creativity that you can take back to your own.

Discover a garden near you.

Many of our gardeners have experienced health benefits from gardening.

George Plumptre, CEO of the National Garden Scheme


Meet Sal

Gardening has always been a love of Sal’s. But when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Sal’s green-fingered passion served a new purpose.

‘Gardening helped me get control back,’ says Sal. ‘Because when you have cancer treatment, it’s so full on. To do something creative that’s totally yours is just a brilliant way of recovering.

‘The advice I would give is to start gently and build yourself up. Enjoy the fresh air, sunshine, birds and wildlife. It all helps.’


Support for healthcare professionals

Encouraging people to become more active can be difficult, especially with limited time and a number of priorities to discuss. Our short online training module is designed to help you raise gardening as a way to get more active following a cancer diagnosis.

We’ve also developed a resource - the Move More pack - for patients, featuring other ways to be more active, and outlining the health benefits. You may find it useful to share this with the people you support.

Macmillan's partnership with the National Garden Scheme

Since 1985, the National Garden Scheme has raised more than £16.2 million to support people affected by cancer – funding 147 professional posts, including nurses and GPs. The money raised has also helped to fund the NGS Macmillan Wellbeing Centre in Southmead Hospital and The NGS Macmillan Unit at Chesterfield Royal Hospital Derbyshire. Find out more about our partnership below.

Macmillan's partnership with the National Garden Scheme
Macmillan's partnership with the National Garden Scheme

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